Mark 14:50-52 “Then everyone deserted him and fled. A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.”
When Jesus’ disciples truly first came to grips with the danger involved in following Christ, they had a solution. “Everyone deserted him and fled.” At the moment, this seemed like a good plan. The more distance they could put between Jesus and themselves, the safer they would be. The less connected to Jesus they appeared, the more security they would have. They would run away and escape the danger.
But you know how the story continues. Did they find the safety they were looking for that weekend? Did they feel secure once they had put some distance between Jesus and themselves? Didn’t they rather spend the weekend huddled together in fear, reduced to a pathetic group of whimpering cowards? Weren’t they paralyzed and crushed by the guilt they felt over leaving him alone?
As a group, they were exposed and shamed like the last man to flee that night. “A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.” This young man was interested in Jesus. He was curious about him. But he certainly wasn’t prepared for the sudden danger in which he found himself. When the enemies of Jesus turned on him, he wriggled free and ran away like all the rest.
The application to us is obvious, isn’t it? We may be some of the loudest and stoutest defenders of Jesus when safe at church or home. Who’s going to oppose us? But how are we doing out there, in the world? Are we like those John wrote about? “They loved praise from men more than praise from God.” We may not literally get up and run away when Jesus’ teachings come under attack. But we are just as cowardly to bite our tongues and say not a word.
At school, maybe we don’t participate in all the immorality around us. But do we manage to fit in because we keep our mouths shut? Do we keep peace in the family by avoiding religious talk with our relatives? We see a possible confrontation coming over matters of faith and Christian life, and we turn and we run. When we have protected ourselves in this way, do we find the safety and security we were looking for?
Part of the suffering Jesus willingly endured for our sins was being abandoned by his friends in his hour of greatest need. Part of the reason he needed to suffer for sin was our own unwillingness to stand by him. And how does Jesus react to those who have bailed on him? Remember Jesus’ first words to these men the first time he was together with them again: “Peace be with you.” He holds no grudges. He demands no restitution. He simply promises them peace.
Only Jesus can give such peace. He had to suffer and die alone to secure it. No one could help him do it. He did not run to safety for himself. He gave himself up and made us safe. Flee to him in every need.